Watchdog Report Vol.13 No.1 May 6, 2012 Est.05.05.00 – I go when you cannot – Celebrating My 13th Anniversary
Argus Report: Sen. Nelson helps identity theft woman known as “Miss X,” he says ID theft is of “epidemic” proportions in South Florida
Florida: U.S. Rep. Rivera may get GOP primary challenger in former Miami Mayor Carollo, Dems have Garcia and Romero Roses in the race, how low will they go?
Miami-Dade County: Charted Review Task Force gets scanned, Sen. Garcia, Rep. Trujillo, and former Mayor Greer in the spotlight
Miami-Dade Public Schools: Supt. Carvalho lights up Chamber luncheon, has “Rock Star Status” with pledge of 90 percent graduation rate by 2014
Public Health Trust: BCC & JHS meet in closed session, no verbal fireworks as Jackson CEO Migoya details evolving strategy to make health trust sustainable in years ahead
City of Miami: Because of 2010 Census numbers being challenged, redistricting of commission seats takes a back seat for now
City of Hialeah: Eleven Indicted in Pharmaceutical Thefts Defendants Involved in Selling and Distributing More than $75 Million Worth of Stolen Pharmaceuticals and Other Goods
City of Miami Beach: Passions running high when it comes to Mgr. Gonzalez, residents should make their case by “the strength of their argument, not the stridency of their voice,” said Ghandi
City of Coral Gables: Info on pick-up truck moratorium
>>> Other stories around Florida
Broward County: Former Police Officer Sentenced for Wire Fraud
Okeechobee County: Three Turtle Farmers Charged and Two Arrested For Illegal Turtle Trafficking
Orange County: Gov. Scott taps Wayne C. Wooten, of Apopka, to the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court.
Jackson County: There he goes again; Gov. Scott suspends Council Member Jones of Town of Malone
Monroe County: Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade and Monroe press release: VPK Registration Continues for summer 2012 and School Year 2012-2013
Community Events: League of Women Voters event – Miami Downtown Bay Forum
Editorials: Gov. Scott what were you thinking at Freedom Tower bill signing event, then memo suggesting law did not pass constitutional muster, slap in the face of Cuban Exiles — Feds continue war on Medicare fraud, FBI SAC Gillies calls for stringent requirements for providers, and even a “carpenter” opened a clinic — Check out the past national story in the Tribune papers: Paperwork Tiger By Maya Bell, Miami Bureau, Orlando Sun-Sentinel January 20, 2003
Letters: Key Biscayne resident wants to know where county’s help is with parks there – Gables reader on WDR 13th Anniversary
Sponsors – Publisher’s mission statement & Subscription information is at the bottom of this issue — Scroll down for all the headline stories text
>>> Just because you do not take an interest in politics does not mean politics will not take an interest in you. –Pericles (430 B.C.)
>>> If you wish to be deleted, just e-mail me with that message and you are free to e-mail this on to friends.
>>> The Watchdog Report publisher would like to thank the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation www.knightfoundation.org for funding by the Knight Foundation with technical support from the Knight Center for International Media http://knight.miami.edu within the University of Miami’s School of Communication www.miami.edu to maintain my webpage. The Watchdog Report webpage is free, has no ads, pops-up and is just the news in a mainstream reporting manner.
>>> HELP: I NEED FINANCIAL HELP IF THIS IS TO CONTINUE AFTER 12-YEARS AND HEADING INTO 13-YEARS IN MAY: If you think it is important to have someone watching your public institutions consider becoming a supporter or sponsor. For there is no trust fund, and I do have to live and I hope you or your organization will consider helping in a small or larger way and help keep another voice on line in the media. A convenient form is at the bottom of this week’s Watchdog Report with all the instructions on how to support this newsletter and news service.
>>> There will be no Watchdog Report for the next two weeks since I am physically exhausted and have to spend my time raising money since I only paid my May rent on Friday. And I hope readers will consider contributing to my effort to bring high definition reporting of your public institution’s and its leaders to light, while also fighting government waste, fraud, abuse and public corruption.
ARGUS REPORT – Heard, Seen on the Street
>>> Sen. Nelson helps identity theft woman known as “Miss X,” he says ID theft is of “epidemic” proportions in South Florida
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-FL, held a press conference Wednesday at a law firm’s office above his local Coral Gables local district office (and using these conference rooms is part of the rental agreement said Nelson versus his much smaller office below) and “Miss X” a unidentified women told of her travail after her identity had been stolen in Dec. 2010.When she first arrived to Miami and a theft took her purse while at a local gas station. The women, an interior designer with a young daughter tried to rectify the problem by herself but it was slow going with the IRS and when she tried to file her taxes for the year. The thieves had already done that and gotten her several thousand in dollars refund check and it took months and the help of Nelson to get her situation corrected and her badly needed refund for her and her young daughter. The women had testified in front of a Senate Committee that Nelson chaired last year and at the time. She described to the committee the horrific effect identity theft is on someone’s life and it has changed her life forever she said.
Nelson noted that local U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer also testified recently to the magnitude of identity fraud here in Miami and Tampa and how drug dealers, thieves and other criminals have found stealing someone’s identity and then filing for any refund from the IRS the South Florida scam of the day, and to say it is rampant is a understatement. Nelson noted Ferrer said it was an “epidemic” given how pervasive it had become in just the last few years and the volume of frauds overwhelms his office across the board.
>>> Sen. Nelson press release: Senator meeting with ID-theft-and-tax-fraud victim from Miami on how new IRS program protects her and others
The arrest of two ex-NFL players and a third football star in an ID-theft and tax-fraud case here indicates the epidemic nature of the crime in Florida, according to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who will be in Miami Wednesday afternoon for a meeting with “Miss X,” the key witness in a congressional hearing into such crimes. The Miami resident fell victim to someone filing a false tax return in her name. As The Miami Herald noted today Nelson presided over congressional hearings. In response to the testimony to “Miss X” and others, the Florida lawmaker sponsored a bill that would make it a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, to use someone else’s Social Security or taxpayer identification numbers to file a fraudulent return.
Criminals who commit tax fraud using stolen Social Security numbers — many of them based in South Florida — have victimized nearly half a million taxpayers since 2008 and collected millions of dollars of refunds, according to published reports on the problem. Since 2008, the IRS has identified more than 460,000 taxpayers who have been affected by identity theft. While estimates range into the hundreds of millions, nobody knows just how much has been sent to criminals. The victims, meantime, lose control of their identity and struggle through a bureaucratic maze to get their refunds from the IRS. “I was in shock and extremely concerned about the tax refund I was due to receive, and was very much counting on,” said the woman identified as “Miss X” to protect her privacy.
She said her handbag had been stolen while she was pumping gas for her car. The information it contained allowed someone to file a tax return and receive her refund of $4,299… Nelson will be meeting again with the witness Wednesday afternoon for an update on how a new IRS PIN-number program is working to protect her and other possible victims. A related IRS program just started April 25. The IRS and federal investigators say they’ve redoubled their efforts to combat tax fraud from identity theft, a crime they call “epidemic” in Florida that’s spreading nationwide.
The IRS recently began a pilot program in Florida aimed at fighting identity theft-related tax fraud by improving cooperation between the agency and local law enforcement, according to Nelson. According to the IRS, the new pilot program will help victims and prevent fraud by assisting “law enforcement in obtaining tax return data vital to their local efforts in investigating and prosecuting specific cases of identity theft.” Under the new program, law enforcement could have victims fill out an IRS disclosure form in suspected cases of identity theft-related tax fraud. This form would allow the IRS to share returns filed under the victim’s name with local and state law enforcement. Local law enforcement that’s interested in participating should contact the IRS Criminal Investigation field offices in Tampa or Miami.
The announcement follows a request by Nelson for the IRS to work more closely with local authorities to combat identity theft-related tax fraud. Nelson first got involved in the issue last year after hearing numerous complaints from taxpayers in Tampa and Orlando who had their tax refunds stolen. Nelson’s Finance subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth has held two investigative hearings on the issue, and he has introduced legislation that would strengthen penalties for ID thieves, expand protections for victims, such as a PIN system to safeguard personal identities, and add new protections to prevent future cases of identity theft-related tax fraud, such as a preventing the release of Social Security numbers of deceased persons. Florida has recently emerged as a hot-spot for identity theft-related tax fraud. Besides the bust of three former NFL players in Miami yesterday, a crackdown and investigation by a Tampa police task force last year led to 49 arrests and uncovered as much as $130 million in fraudulent refunds. “Fraudsters are taking millions from hard-working taxpayers in Florida,” Nelson said.
What about Nelson’s U.S. Senate reelection race?
Nelson first elected in 2000 to the worlds most exclusive club is expected to face front runner Republican U.S Rep. Connie Mack, IV, R-Cape Corral or former U. S. Sen. George LeMieux or long shot Michael McCalister who only has $4,595 of cash on hand to LeMieux’s $1.9 million. However excluding Mack who has the best name recognition and funding capability, LeMieux appointed to the Senate by then Gov. Charlie Crist after Sen. Mel Martinez stepped down in Aug. 2009. He has had to slog it out around the state and he is being dogged by his past association with Crist who is now an independent after Crist lost the race to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL. in 2010. However, Mack is not without his critics and some say he is not his father, former U.S. Sen. Connie Mack, R-FL and the son is cut from a different cloth than his more famous father many say, who was the grandson of famed baseball manager Connie Mack.
What about the Washington Post reporter at the Nelson meeting?
A Washington Post reporter also attended the meeting, she is doing a longer profile on Nelson for the award winning national paper as his Senate race heats up, and he is more focused once Republicans decide in the Aug.14 primary who will be the GOP challenger. Nelson is a former U.S. House representative, Florida Agricultural Commissioner and also a mission specialist on a past Space Shuttle flight while in Congress. And he joked when she was in the room that she thought this news conference was “all about politics” but he argued constituent outreach in the case of the scammed women was also part of the job he did as a Senator.
What about CBS 4 consumer & investigative reporter Al Sunshine?
Nelson asked Sunshine after they had verbally sparred on a couple of issues on and off camera where his name came from and how was it derived? Sunshine said when his past relatives came to Ellis Island to enter the United States. After the immigration official did not understand their real name and he instead called them Sunshine. The name stuck and became the official one for the family said the veteran reporter to Nelson. And he joked afterwards Nelson probable did not expect such a long elaborate explanation that included a reference to the movie Schindler’s List where he saw his family’s old name on some luggage of people in the trains being sent to their doom at the Nazi’s concentration death camps.
What about CBS4 investigative reporter Stephen Stock?
Stock who came to Miami a number of years ago with his family to be part of the station’s award winning investigative team and lived in Coconut Grove has said sayonara and about a month ago, he went to a new gig in San Francisco. The Watchdog Report respected Stock for his work, he will be missed and I give him a Tip of the Hat for a job well done while he was in South Florida.
>>> Diaz-Balart: IRS new Florida pilot program, step in the right direction
Press release: Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) released the following statement in response to the implementation of the IRS new Law Enforcement Assistance Pilot Program, exclusively for the state of Florida. The pilot program is designed to aid law enforcement in obtaining tax returns to investigate and prosecute specific cases of identity theft. Diaz-Balart comments: “After numerous hearings and meetings with the IRS, during which I expressed deep concern with the astounding number of identity theft cases in South Florida, today the IRS responds with the launch of a new pilot program. The new program will help provide answers to the thousands of identity theft victims in the state of Florida, particularly in South Florida. We must ensure the security and safety of hardworking taxpayers; I think this program is a step in the right direction to prevent these heinous crimes from occurring in the future.” Congressman Diaz-Balart testified on a panel in June 2011 held by the Oversight Committee, Subcommittee on Government Organization, Efficiency and Financial Management titled “IRS E-file and Identity Theft.” In the same month, Diaz-Balart met with IRS Commissioner, Doug Shulman to demand more effective measures to be implemented to prevent identity theft.
>>> Press release: Don’t Assume Chen Saga Over, Ros-Lehtinen Warns
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, commented today on reports that China will allow Chen Guangcheng, a human rights activist who recently escaped house arrest, to apply for permission to study in the United States. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen: “While China has reportedly agreed to let Chen leave, U.S. officials must not assume that Beijing will actually allow this to happen. Only when Chen arrives on American soil and is granted political asylum will we know that this issue is resolved and his freedom and safety are assured. “U.S. officials made a mistake by escorting Chen away from the safety of the U.S. embassy and into an uncertain fate. To avoid another harmful error, the State Department must press China to carry out its commitments. We cannot assume that this saga has been resolved.”
>>> It’s official: The Watchdog Report is 13 years old, I have taken a licking over the past 13-years, but have kept on ticking with some special peoples & organizations help – Thank You!
The Watchdog Report is Celebrating my 13th Anniversary and I could not have done this without the help of around a hundred people and organizations over those years and to each of you. I thank you from the bottom of my heart and while some earlier supporters have passed away or can no longer help in some capacity. You each still stepped up and helped at a time I needed it, and has allowed me to get to this date and time. And when I started, I only knew the power of the internet would give the report internet wings that fly’s over the globe via the email list every week, people sending it on by their own list, or the www.watchdogreport.net webpage.
I also thought long and hard about when to publish and most weekly papers in South Florida run on Wednesday, the big dailies have there own schedule of what is published over the weekend, and there was a news opening I thought. If someone was willing to work essentially 24/7 and publish late Sunday afternoon. On Saturday May 5, I marked this new anniversary and there has been so much news that has been reported on in the weekly report over those years, as my past readers know and for the first time this past year. I have published 52 weeks in a row.
And that publishing milestone is no small feat and it has left me exhausted, broke and later in the month. I will take a break since my web person is getting married and going on her honeymoon. And I wish her all the best in her new married life. However, I also want to thank all of you that have helped in some way to get to this milestone. Since I work alone and battled a major medical issue back in February 2010, that included two lifesaving surgeries, one at 4:00 a.m. by Vascular Surgeon Jorge Rabaza, M.D. at Baptist Health’s South Miami Hospital that he said “was a flip of the coin,” if I came through the operation and I thank him for being successful and keeping me alive. And since that time, it has given me a different perspective about life and its fragility and throughout these past years. I have tried my best to fight public corruption and I have done what I could to make public institutions more transparent, ethical and eliminating waste, fraud and abuse of the community’s precious public tax dollars but it has been a rough road for me financially.
When I first started, I knew two things, the internet and the Florida Open Records Sunshine Law opened a door to watching public institutions and what elected leaders did like never before, and I would make the Watchdog Report free to all that were interested. I wanted the richest and the poorest and in need of us to get the Report if they wanted it. Because I also hoped to increase the civic depth and understanding of all people interested in how politics were affecting their lives. Since as Pericles said, “You may not take an interest in politics but politics may take an interest in you,” and that has been my tag line since the beginning back in 2000. However, financially it has been slow going and while I have saved hundreds of millions of public tax dollars over these years, by killing some expenditure or getting the PHT a break on a new stents contract where about $10 million was saved along with others help in 1998. And I have done this fiscal questioning for almost 15 years now and it adds up quickly given the aggregate sum of public dollars in play, now around $13 billion yearly that we have in our public institutions in Miami-Dade. And one example included the Miami-Dade Metropolitan Planning Organization considering giving a politically connected person Dr. Rudy Moise around $10 million to do traffic updates on a Creole AM radio station he owned and was being pushed by Ron Krongold, one of the co founders of Jungle Island.
After I spoke to some commissioners before the MPO vote back in the early 2000s pointing out other radio stations were doing it free as part of their public service component. Further, I also noted we should at least put the traffic updates in Creole and for that amount of money, and we could buy our own radio station at the time since the market was not that competitive. Miami-Dade Commissioners ended up voting it down at the time, with Miami-Dade Commissioner Joe Martinez telling Krongold who pushed the deal very hard at the dais. “You are on fire, bail out, bail out,” he joked when it was clear the issue was dead with the other MPO members (After this incident, Krongold would later be removed by Gov. Jeb Bush to the MPO board since he was the governors appointment), but there have been so many other cases like this over the years, and this saving of tax dollars is a very strong reason why I kept at the Watchdog Report. Also, another example was in the late 1990s at a school board committee meeting when then long serving Board Member Betsy Kaplan said to me after what I call an incident. “Dan, you’re trying to keep us out of jail,” she mused and yes, that was another objective in my attempt to help be part of building a community that was informed and civically engaged with minimal public corruption.
I reflect on this because I doubt anyone will ever do this again in South Florida when I am gone for it took a broad set of circumstances to take a international businessman on this path after living in Japan, almost five years in Sydney while traveling extensively throughout Asia, and spending extensive time in China since my 1974 degree from George Washington University’s (Sino-Soviet Institute at the time) was in Chinese Studies. Further, I am divorced with no children, thought back in the mid 1990s someone needed to fight for the residents and people who did not have time to participate in governmental affairs, and when no one else stepped forward, I did. And that decision was partly driven by some of the social and financial injustice that pervaded the community back then with scandals in the headlines ranging from MIA to Miami-Dade, the county school board and the city of Miami being the poster child. Where city managers were fired like eating M&Ms and elected leaders and two city managers went to jail.
Further, I was given the gift of being a featured Miami Herald editorial columnist back in the spring and summer of 2000, sharing the Tuesday page with controversial award winning writers like Max Castro and Carl Hiaasen. I was writing as the ‘Public Citizen’ and later in 2003 as a featured weekly independent news columnist for The Herald www.miamiherald.com as the Watchdog Report, where one of my weekly stories ran in the general circulation daily up to the time McClatchy bought out Knight–Ridder. And this mainstream media exposure expanded my readership to around 100,000 readers in 2004. A University of North Carolina Chapel Hill study of the media in the southern states estimated and named me one of Florida’s “influential columnists.” Further, I have been a regular contributor on WLRN/NPR 91.3 FM on Joseph Cooper’s show Topical Currents show www.wlrn.org since 2000. I appear frequently on Helen Ferre’s show Issues on WPBT2, and past Watchdog Report stories early on have run in the Community Newspapers as well as in Spanish publications and all of this back then allowed me to gain credibility and a readership base unheard of at the time, and now, for a single individual reporter working on his own.
And after all of that media help, I also thank the many new people I have met on this strange journey, their thoughts, opinions and information that they have given me. For I have tried to represent the average person when I have gotten the chance to interview such people like then candidate President Barack Obama, Presidential candidates Senators John Kerry and John McCain, Gov. Jeb Bush and Gov. Charlie Crist almost weekly when they were in office, as well as people like former Soviet Union Leader Mikhail Gorbachev, former CBS anchor Dan Rather, and the U.S. Ambassador from Pakistan over the years to name a few of the people.
And covering South Florida brings these people here and I am convinced there is nowhere else in the country; just a citizen armed with the internet could accomplish this. For when you say Miami anywhere you go in the world, someone will have some colorful comment be it a German tourist to a retired headhunter in Borneo. And I like to joke that South Florida “is like the dysfunctional half brother or sister every family has, but we have great weather, beautiful beaches, and stone crabs the size of small children! And that has been what has made Miami one of the top destination spots in the world, and where else but here, would a Watchdog Report spring up back in May of 2000.
>>> See what was said about the Watchdog Report in the Miami New Times 2003 — Best of Miami — BEST CITIZEN — Daniel Ricker – email@example.com
Three years ago, we said Ricker was our Best Gadfly. Given his dedication and perseverance, this new honor, Best Citizen, is well deserved. Ricker goes to 2500 mind-melting meetings annually, from the Public Health Trust’s purchasing subcommittee to the Efficiency and Competition Commission to the Alliance for Human Services’ nominating council to the school board’s audit committee. Sometimes he’s the only public observer. Object: to be the Public Citizen for all those out there who can’t attend, and to connect and serve as an information bridge among the special-interest-dominated Miami-Dade governmental institutions that seem so problematic and indifferent to the democratic process.
This month his e-mail newsletter, The Watchdog Report, celebrates its fourth anniversary (Now entering its 13th year May 5th ). In a former life, Ricker made a handsome living as an international salesman of heart pacemakers. As the hard-working publisher of Watchdog Report, though, he’s struggling financially — this despite the fact that his weekly compendium of meeting summaries, analysis, interviews, and commentary has become essential reading for anyone involved in public affairs. What his written work may lack in polish, it more than makes up for in comprehensiveness. So raise a toast to the man whose official slogan says it all: “A community education resource — I go when you cannot!”
>>> All photos in the Watchdog Report are taken from public government sites, and the Report goes on line at www.watchdogreport.net on Monday sometime during the day usually. >>> If you believe it is important to have someone watching your public institutions consider supporting the Watchdog Report for I am a low cost news service, yet I do have to live, thank you! Further, I have been honored over the years by being named a WFOR-4 Hometown Hero in 2000, being profiled in a major way by The Miami New Times and was Best Citizen in the 2003 Best of Miami of The Miami New Times, profiled twice in The Miami Herald, and the Orlando Sentinel ran a nationwide story on me in the Tribune papers on Jan. 2003, and UNC Chapel Hill named me one of the top columnists in Florida in a multi-state study of the media back in 2004. I also thank Joseph Cooper for the opportunity to be on the WLRN/NPR showTopical Currents on www.wlrn.org since 2000, including yearly election coverage since then, and also numerous times over the past decade. Further, I am a frequent guest on WWW.WPBT2.ORG on Helen Ferre’s show Issues, and have also appeared on Eliott Rodriguez’s show News & Views on www.CBS4.com .
>>> U.S. Rep. Rivera may get primary challenger in former Miami Mayor Carollo, Dems have Garcia and Romero Roses in the race, how low will they go?
The race for U.S. House District 26 is heating up and U.S. David Rivera, R-Miami is getting a variety of challengers for the seat (Which was U.S. House District 25 when he first won in 2010). Joe Garcia, a former chair of the Florida Public Service Commission in the 1990s and a past Democratic Party congressional candidate is throwing his hat into the ring again as well as Gloria Romero Roses, who lives in Broward. But a new Republican entry may be former Miami Mayor Joe Carollo who has been in political limbo since he left office in late December 2001, after he did not make the runoff election that had Miami Mayor Manuel Diaz ultimately prevailing. Carollo on Thursday while he was having lunch with Garcia told the Watchdog Report that it was his brother Frank, a Miami Commissioner who first suggested the idea. Rivera in the last race faced Garcia and the congressman prevailed getting 52 percent of the vote, Garcia came in with 43 percent, a Tea Party candidate got 3 percent, and the no party affiliation candidate siphoned off 2 percent of the vote.
Both Garcia and Carollo think that while Rivera has survived an extensive state attorney investigation on how he lived the past ten years, with no charges being brought. A federal probe including the FBI and IRS was also running in parallel and that investigation has yet to be closed, and if the former state representative is charged. He might drop out of the race and Garcia if he captures the primary could win the office unopposed and Carollo a hardcore GOP member doesn’t want that default election to be the voters only alternative, he said. Rivera has said he is innocent and that the state attorney’s closeout report is false and inaccurate in its description of his past years and how he lived off campaign funds telling Republicans he “did nothing wrong.” And he is hoping with mainstream GOP members that they will buy into this argument and allow him to politically move on with his career and fundraising, but the investigation is still out there in the public domain, and if he faces the former Miami Mayor in the primary, this will be an ugly race.
Carollo has had a mixed reception in the community over the years and while he is considered honest. He also earned the nickname of “Crazy Joe” and had a significant incident involving a past divorced wife, who he had children with. He remarried later, but also got divorced again and his decades long political and personal narrative is quite extensive, and some of it is not flattering. And one person who has known him for decades described him as “being his own worst enemy.” Further, during the Elian Gonzalez crisis in the spring of 2000. He fanned the flames of ethnic tension that had Miami leading national news programs every night for almost six months as the young Cuban boy with his Cuban American relatives took refuge in a Little Havana home, was extracted by federal immigration authorities over the 2000 Easter Holiday, and Miami broke into ethnic demonstrations, social disturbances, and flames.
However, Carollo was also the one to ask Gov. Lawton Chiles for an independent state financial oversight board in the mid 1990s and that board of people who did not live in the city for five years, essentially administrated the city and approved all legislation that the commission had passed. After a record some $65 million budget hole in the mid 1990s and the city’s bonds were junk at the time. And during that subsequent time of tight fiscal management, Miami’s reserves rose to well over $120 million, and when Mayor Diaz arrived in office. The city Diaz found was in great fiscal shape and Miami voters also passed a Homeland and Neighborhood $245 million bond during that same election but those general fund reserves have tumbled significantly since those days. The new redistricted congressional District 26 is also much more uniform in the number of voters from both political parties, and this will be potentially a two-part play, the primary Aug. 14 and then the grueling general election in November.
>>> State Atty. Fernandez-Rundle faces off against Vereen, battle lines are set for tough countywide race
Katherine Fernandez-Rundle, the Miami-Dade State Attorney since 1993 when she followed U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno in the office has gotten a credible challenger in fellow Democrat Rod Vereen, an African American and there is an array of prominent people backing his campaign. Fernandez Rundle, a Cuban American is being criticized for being soft on corruption and for prosecuting Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, that later had the case dropped after a key witness recanted their story and is one of the cases critics cite that suggests she does selective prosecutions. The long serving top legal prosecutor fires back that is not the case, that sometimes people do some things that while stupid and look bad. They may not have broken the law or the charges can’t be proven in a court of law. However, critics also charge after so many years in office, including having a street named after her. They suggest new blood in the office is needed and because there are two write in candidates, Omar Malone and Michelle Samaroo, it is a closed primary in August that only Democratic Party voters can participate in. Malone is a public defender and Samaroo was a past Broward assistant state attorney who left the office suddenly under a cloud. http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/04/20/2759359_p2/miami-dade-state-attorney-race.html
Thus, the partisan primary will be closed because of these “write in” candidates to Republican voters and the Watchdog Report in the future is going to find out who these people are since they are disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of county voters, just because they are listed on the general election ballot in November. Fernandez-Rundle suggests it was a political maneuver by Vereen to limit the voters to the 525,800 Democrats in the county, but he fires back that is not the case; though both write in candidates are Black. And when I checked on past write in Candidates in 2000. One person disconnected their phone after I called them asking about the race, and another had a listed address that did not exist when I drove to the location back then. However, in this case both of these candidates appear to be legitimate given their credentials versus the people I checked on back then.
>>> Press release: I don’t do movie reviews, but…If I were a parent – indeed, everyone who cares about children — I would make it my business to see it.
If I were a school superintendent, I’d insist that my top administrators and all my principals see it. If I were a principal, I’d ask all my teachers to see it. If I were the Senate president or House speaker, I’d urge every legislator to see it. If I were the governor, I’d make sure I saw it – and those who worked for me, too. The movie is “Bully,” and I saw it last weekend. It is a profoundly important topic, and ever more important in this cyberspace age. Thanks for caring. Dave Lawrence
Chair, The Children’s Movement of Florida P.S.: If you’d like to learn more about this film, just click here.
>>> Charted Review Task Force gets scanned, Sen. Garcia, Rep. Trujillo, and Mayor Greer in the spotlight
With the Miami-Dade Charter Reform Task Force holding public meetings this week to get input from the public before they come together again to make their recommendations to the county commission. The Watchdog Report thought I would look at the financials of some of the leadership members. State Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah is the chair of the body, state Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, is on the task force and former Mayor and county school board member Evelyn Greer (Net worth $7.75 million in 2007) was elected vice chair. Garcia has been a healthcare executive, and in the past has worked for Mercy Hospital, the old Cedars Hospital, and is now at Miami-Dade Medical College and Greer is a Columbia University educated local practicing attorney.
Garcia, a former Hialeah councilman, was first elected to the Florida House in 2000, was termed out in 2008 and he took a political hiatus from public office but came back in 2010 when he won his Senate District 40 seat unopposed. Garcia is running unopposed so far this year as well. He has raised $190,975 for his campaign war chest, and he has spent $63,000 for the race. The healthcare executive has a MBA from the University of Miami and a BS in political Science from Florida International University and is the VP for Community Relations for Dade Medical College.
Fellow Republican Trujillo has $107,800 in his campaign war chest and he has spent $28,200 to date. Fellow GOP candidate Jose Diaz who is reporting zero money for his campaign is challenging him. The Miami-Dade assistant state attorney got his law degree from FSU, was a Miami Herald Silver Knight recipient in 2001, and was first elected to the House in 2010. He is married and lives in Coral Gables http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/details.aspx?MemberId=4527&SessionId=70
What about their finances?
Garcia through Dec. 31, 2010 had a net worth of $25,089 and he lists owning no household goods of value. His assets include a condominium in Miami valued at $130,000 and a house in Tallahassee is worth $155,089. His liabilities are a mortgage with Chase owed $101,000, a GMAC mortgage is owed $124,000 and Sallie Mae wants $35,000. His income for the year was $101,568 from Dade Medical College, a firm he owns has contributed $5,500 and FIU kicked in $1,387 for the year.
Trujillo through Dec. 2011 had a net worth of -$13,000 and he lists $30,000 in household goods. His assets are his home valued at $285,000, a house in Tallahassee is worth $95,000 and in the Florida Retirement System, there is $19,800, and a checking account has $3,200 state his financial disclosure forms on file with the state. His liabilities include a SunTrust mortgage owed $277,000, GMAC wants $77,800, Sallie Mae is owed $75,800, and Access Group wants $15,400. His income for the year is $34,040 as a member of the House and there is $18,000 and $10,200 in rental income but for some reason his salary from the state attorney’s office is not listed.
>>> Press release: The Miami-Dade County Charter Review Task Force is conducting Public Hearings, which will allow for public input and focused study of possible amendments to the County Charter. Residents are encouraged to provide their input at the Public Hearings or at www.miamidade.gov/charter. Members of the 2012 Charter Review Task Force will be in attendance at the Public Hearings. On March 8, 2012, the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners approved Resolution R-253-12 creating a Charter Review Task Force. The Task Force is charged with reviewing the Home Rule Charter of Miami-Dade County; studying the final report of the 2008 Charter Review Task Force; reviewing amendments submitted to the voters since 2008; inviting knowledgeable members of the community to appear; conducting public hearings; hosting regional public meetings; and providing written recommendations to be presented to the Board of County Commissioners at their July 17, 2012 meeting.
>>> The Task Force consists of 20 members, 13 of the members are appointed by each County Commissioner, one by the Mayor of Miami-Dade County, four by each of the four largest cities in the County, and two by the Miami-Dade League of Cities. For more information about the Charter Review Task Force, visit www.miamidade.gov/charter/task-force-2012.asp. >>> WHAT: 2012 Miami-Dade County Charter Review Task Force Public Hearings WHEN Monday, May 7, 2012, 5:30 p.m. Miami Art Museum WHERE: 101 W. Flagler Street, Miami, FL 33130 >>> Tuesday, May 8, 2012, 5:30 p.m. North Dade Regional Library, 2455 NW 183rd Street, Miami, FL 33056 >>> Wednesday, May 9, 2012, 5:30 p.m., West Kendall Regional Library, 10201 Hammocks Boulevard, Miami, FL 33196 >>> Thursday, May 10, 2012, 5:30 p.m. South Dade Regional Library, 10750 SW 211th Street, Miami, FL 33189 >>> Friday, May 11, 2012, 5:30 p.m., Wilde Community Center, W. 53rd Terrace, Hialeah, FL 33012.
>>> Looking for a sixth term on the BCC Moss gets challenger; but is Pena in the candidate wings?
Dennis Moss, the county commissioner that represents District 9, located in South Dade and seeking a sixth consecutive term on the legislative body has one challenger Loretta Riley already and a second, Alice Pena is said to be considering jumping into the race. Moss who has a reputation of keeping his word and being a straight talker also supported the new Miami Marlins stadium costing around $2.5 billion when the financing is considered and the overall cost is causing controversy around the county. Moss has run the Richmond Perrine Optimist Club for decades, his wife is an executive at MIA, and he drives himself to events around the county but he was also the chair of the body when the stadium vote took place voting yes.
Moss first came on the political scene just after Hurricane Andrew wiped out South Dade in August 1992 and his focus over the years was to get the community rebuilt, get a vibrant and thriving local economy, beautify Miami-Dade and make Miami Zoo a premier global attraction. He is a supporter of not moving the Urban Development Boundary line and has been a moderate voice on the 13-member commission. However, billionaire auto magnate Norman Braman who has criticized his stadium vote for years has targeted him for removal from the dais and it is a question whether he will endorse and support someone like Pena. Moss has called Braman in the press a “bully” with his political tactics and says he is happy to face the voters of the district based on his record over the past 20 years.
Since Pena has the higher profile of the challenger’s, and she was recently named the Dade Farm Bureau’s Women of the Year and received proclamations from the City of Homestead and county Commissioner Lynda Bell gave her a proclamation from Miami-Dade. If she decides to challenge Moss, Pena might get the support of Bell who is considered a fiscal conservative and Bell is a Republican like Braman, though the race is nonpartisan. However, that party affiliation helped Bell get over the top in her own commission District 8 race by around 400 votes in a tight squeaker in 2010. Moss has $9,700 in his campaign war chest and Riley has raised no money to date.
>>> Press release: Registration Now Open for Miami-Dade Parks’ Summer Camps! Exciting Summer Camps are being offered by the Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department, June 11-August 17, 2012, at its parks around the County. Programs are affordable and fully-supervised. There’s fitness, sports, nature-encounters, arts and crafts, field trips and more! Camp hours: 9:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m., with early drop-off/ late pick-up available. Miami Dade Parks provides inclusion services for children with disabilities who want to attend typical summer camps.
>>> Press release: Adrienne Arsht Center AileyCamp Miami 2012 AileyCamp Miami is a summer day camp where middle school students are “turned on” to dance and come to respect the discipline of dance as a physical activity that requires athletic ability comparable to skills demanded by any sport. Also, campers will increase their leadership skills and enjoy a variety of social activities. Monday – Friday, June 25 – August 4, 2012; 8:30AM – 3:30PM. Ages 11-14, MDCPS Grades 6-8, SPACE IS LIMITED, NOW ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS
MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
>>> Supt. Carvalho lights up Chamber luncheon, has “Rock Star Status” with pledge of 90 percent graduation by 2014
Alberto Carvalho who has achieved “Rock Star Status,” said one person Wednesday given how the nation’s fourth largest school district is beginning to perform since he took the reins in September 2008 and the man promised hundreds of people attending the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon Wednesday that graduation rates would hit 90 percent by 2014, he vowed. Carvalho detailed what he faced when he took the job back then when the district had been plagued with late into the night board meetings, open hostility on the board, and only $4 million in reserves for the then around $6 billion public school district. He told the entranced audience that Miami-Dade was only two points below the state graduation rate, a significant increase over the past few years that had past graduation rates in the 60 percent range and was considered unacceptable.
He said he has changed 60 percent of the district’s principals during his tenure and has moved administration staff back into the classrooms with the central focus teaching the children of the school district. And he is the district’s biggest public cheerleader, is on advisory boards on education at the White House level and was once described by a past chair of the citizen based School Board Audit and Budget Advisory Committee as “the most interesting man in the world,” a phrase used in a popular beer ad. He came to America from Portugal to attend college and has had a host of posts from a chemistry teacher, to the district’s legislative liaison and also the media representative. He is a dapper dresser with perfect hair and is fluent in a number of languages that gives him an edge since the schools teach English language programs in around 19 languages. The district has for decades had high achievement schools but the ones in the poor urban core were failing to educate the at risk youth effectively, with unacceptable high drop out rates, some of the highest in the nation. It is for his reason said Carvalho, that high performing schools are being given more freedom but greater assets are being focused on the failing schools and after four years the results are paying off, he said. He believes given the rise in graduation rates to 78 percent versus the state’s 80 percent that the 90 percent rate in the next two years is achievable and seems to indicate he wants to stay at the public schools district in the coming years.
What about the rumor he might run for county mayor?
The Watchdog Report asked Carvalho if he was considering running for mayor this year against Mayor Carlos Gimenez and he said. “I am committed to the work I am doing,” he said. Which suggests he is staying right where he is during this election cycle but he is young and any future political aspirations have plenty of time to mature as he continues in this high profile position.
But what about any cheating on the FCAT tests?
While this graduation increase is impressive, there still an undercurrent asking if there is widespread or instances of teachers and students cheating on the FCAT tests that now has Miami-Dade with no state rated F status high schools and the district says the improvements are real, but people are still discussing the issue.
>>> Candidates Castillo and Espino vie for Dist. 5 seat on nine-member board
School Board District 5 being vacated by board Member Renier Diaz de la Portilla who is running for the Florida House has drawn two candidates, Susan Castillo and Daniel Espino. Castillo has raised no money and Espino has $100.00 in his campaign war chest that had the incumbent raising $39,100 before he dropped out of the race.
PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST
>>> BCC & JHS meet in closed session, no verbal fireworks as Jackson CEO Migoya details evolving strategy to make health trust sustainable in years ahead
There was peace and calm in the public healthcare valley as county commissioners met with the senior administrative staff of Jackson Health System in a closed executive session meeting Tuesday at noon in a small second floor conference room used by commissioners. Jackson President and CEO Carlos Migoya in a presentation detailed what the strategy for sustainability was morphing into and the confidential plan should be finalized in either June or July. Commissioner Sally Heyman, Barbara Jordan along with at least five other county commissioners signed off on having the private discussion with Migoya but the Watchdog Report thought there might be verbal fireworks but I am told it went well and Jackson’s senior executives left none of the confidential material behind.
The Watchdog Report waited in the conference room until they began the closed meeting that included a court reporter present, the county attorney’s office representatives but they along with commissioners and Migoya’s top people and the one Financial Recovery Board member Steven Nuell was there, and no other FRB member attended since it would have triggered the meeting becoming public under Florida’s Sunshine Law.
CITY OF MIAMI
>>> Because of 2010 Census numbers being challenged, redistricting of commission seats takes a back seat for now
The Watchdog Report contacted Miami Commission Chair Francis Suarez last week asking what the status was of the commission redistricting process that usually concludes at the end of April, a year after the 2010 Census numbers were received and has the county and school board already approving the new 2012 representative’s districts maps. The commissioners do not need new maps this year since their elections are on odd years and 2013 is the next round of elections, but these are usually done by now. However, since the Miami Census numbers are being challenged by the city, there is delay of the new maps. Suarez wrote back that while “we have [not] finalized the redistricting process. There is a “legal consultant who has begun the process,” wrote the commission chair.
>>> Watchdog Report gives all Miami Department Directors 30 days to file financial disclosure forms, CIP Dir. Bravo already compliant
The Watchdog Report is giving all City of Miami Department Directors 30 days to get your yearly-required financial disclosure form in and when I asked Alice Bravo if she had filed. She responded “yes,” since she is a long-term government employee who has been a past local FDOT secretary. However, I know of one high profile city director who has not and he should get his paper work in because it is a requirement and being busted for this will not be a résumé builder. Some of the employees of Miami take a very blasé attitude about some of these requirements they are supposed to operate under. And with the Miami-Dade Ethics Commission having oversight of such issues. It would be prudent for all top administration employees to become compliant.
CITY OF HIALEAH
>>> Eleven Indicted in Pharmaceutical Thefts Defendants Involved in Selling and Distributing More than $75 Million Worth of Stolen Pharmaceuticals and Other Goods
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, Mark R. Trouville, Special Agent in Charge, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Miami Field Division, Hugo J. Barrera, Special Agent in Charge, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), Miami Field Office, James K. Loftus, Director, Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD), and Captain Mary Lathrop, Southern Region Commander, Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), Bureau of Criminal Investigations, announce the indictment of eleven South Florida residents for their participation in the sale and distribution of stolen pharmaceuticals and other goods. This prosecution, dubbed Operation Southern Hospitality, targeted individuals involved in the sale and distribution of goods stolen from warehouses and tractor-trailers across the United States. Charged in the eighteen count indictment are Amaury Villa, 37, of Miami, Roberto Garcia-Amador, 46, of Miami, Ernesto Romero Vidal, 46, of Hallandale, Abel Mesa Samper, 39, of Miami, Michael Rangel, 38, of Hialeah, Suhong Wu, 42, of Miami, Geovanni Gonzalez, 40, of Hialeah, Pedro L. Rangel, 27, of Miami, Carlos Alberto Valdes, 43, of Hialeah Gardens, Yanni A. Sanchez, 39, of Hialeah, and Leonardo Manuel Guerra, 43, of Clewiston. All are in custody and will appear in federal court in Fort Lauderdale today and tomorrow.
In March 2010, an Eli Lilly warehouse in Connecticut was the target of what has been described as the largest pharmaceutical theft in the country. More than $75 million worth of medications were stolen. The indictment charges three defendants (Villa, Garcia-Amador and Wu) with conspiring to sell and the sale of anti-psychotic and anti-depressant medications stolen from the Eli Lilly warehouse in Connecticut. Villa is also charged with possession of approximately 4654 boxes of medications, including Gemzar, an intravenous drug used for the treatment of cancer, stolen from the warehouse during the theft. In addition, in a separate case announced today in the District of Connecticut, defendants Amaury Villa, and his brother Amed Villa, 46, were charged with conspiracy and theft offenses related to the March 2010 Eli Lilly burglary. The federal indictment in Connecticut indictment was unsealed earlier today (Thursday). In addition, the United States Attorney for the Central District of Illinois today announced the unsealing of an indictment charging Amed Villa with the theft of more than 3,500 cases of cigarettes valued at more than $8 million from a warehouse in Tazewell County, Ill., on Jan. 24, 2010… “This investigation represents the largest takedown in U.S. history involving cargo theft. The theft involves more than $100 million, including $80 million worth of pharmaceuticals,” said John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge for FBI Miami. “Today’s arrests have dealt a major blow to this Miami-based criminal organization. Cargo theft is a growing multi-billion dollar crime that significantly impacts consumers, local governments, manufacturers and shipping companies.”… An indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.
CITY OF MIAMI BEACH
>>> Passions running high when it comes to Mgr. Gonzalez, residents should make their case by “The strength of their argument, not the stridency of their voice,” said Ghandi
With the Miami Beach Commission meeting looming Wednesday May 9, activists are split on whether they want the head of long serving Beach Manager Jorge Gonzalez or not and incivility concerning this issue is raising its head. Critics charge that Gonzalez in office almost a dozen years, that his administration has been rocked by scandals, “corruption” and most recently the undercover FBI sting that ended in the arrest, indictment and one guilty plea of six Beach code and fire inspectors mostly hired in the 1990s before Gonzalez took the helm, for shaking down a club owner. Gonzalez has fired back by creating a wide variety of new relationships with the FBI, county inspector general’s office, ethics training and a host of other initiatives that the commission will vote on but some question if it is not too late and will change nothing given the city’s culture. Commissioners are also taking heat from some constituents and the upcoming meeting if past meetings are any example will be contentious and the issue will be discussed around 5:00 p.m.. The Watchdog Report has been getting emails from both sides of the debate, if Gonzalez should stay or go and Mayor Mattie Herrera Bower has been verbally buffeted and got into a shouting match at a recent rally with an activist demanding the man step down.
In a telephone interview Saturday, Gonzalez said his record over the years of accomplishment is being ignored by some of these people and commissioners and the city in many ways has never been in better shape. He said the issue has become commingled with some activist’s demands and the CWA Union that represents a number of city employees facing “a 17 percent pay cut in concessions” in the fall and for the union’s members this is a significant salary reduction that is being fought. He said the city has around 2,000 employees and the lead code enforcement officer (who was arrested and indicted) was about to get a Commission proclamation, possible the third over the decades from the body, but it shows how the past respected employee fooled the commission and administration. He said that over the years he has had a history of proactive action when alerted to corruption, like in the building and procurement departments. He notified the state attorney’s office in those cases and helped “root out” these wayward officials and he was not a target of the investigation. He said he hoped commissioners “recognized that he was a very good manager over the past 12-years” and that under his administration there “was a extremely long list of positive actions” and business leaders in the municipality are doing very well with tourism numbers and the attendant different tourist tax revenues that are through the roof. He said this is in “no small part me as the city manager” and while he did not attend an “out pouring of about 100 people, a cross section of the community” that wanted him retained last week. He did note that a recent survey of about 3,000 residents showed that 89 percent of the people sampled rated the city’s services “excellent or good, 8 percent said fair and only 3 percent rated services poor,” he said. Gonzalez further noted the city’s strong AA+ bond rating as another sign he has done a good job. However, the two key people on the commission may be the swing votes of Commissioners Deede Weithorn and Michael Gongora, and how they vote is expected to determine Gonzalez’s fate. Readers should stay tuned and see how this highly charged issue plays out in the coming days.
>>> Press release: Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club Meeting Date: Tuesday, May 8th, 2012, Meeting Time: 8:30 AM, Meeting Place: David’s Café II, 1654 Meridian Ave., South Beach. Miami Beach City Manager Jorge Gonzalez will be this week’s guest speaker at the May 8th meeting of the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club. Mr. Gonzalez is now in his 12th year as City Manager. The recent disclosure of alleged long term corruption in the city’s Code and Fire Departments, as well as allegations of Police miss-conduct and seemingly out of control Police shootings last Memorial Day weekend, have resulted in questions over the administration of the city, and even calls by some for the Manager to step down. Addressing these concerns the Manager has put together a new program of reforms, which he will be presenting. Also high on the Manager’s priorities is the evaluation of the finalists for the Convention Center expansion, which he will also be discussing. There is no charge for attending and everyone is welcome. David Kelsey, Moderator for the Breakfast Club. Visit our web site at www.MBTMBC.com (Miami Beach Tuesday Morning
CITY OF CORAL GABLES
>>> Gables web page: Zoning board: Pickups on private property OK — with restrictions Coral Gables’ Planning and Zoning Department determined new guidelines, and the advisory board approved, in a 4-1 vote, that pickup truck owners would be allowed to park their unmodified vehicles in residential driveways, potentially changing controversial rules that have existed …
>>> OTHER STORIES AROUND FLORIDA
>>> Former Police Officer Sentenced for Wire Fraud
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, and Franklin Adderley, Chief of Police, Fort Lauderdale Police Department, announced that David Michael McElligott, 47, of Warner Robins, GA, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra to 21 months’ imprisonment, to be followed by two years’ supervised release, for his fraudulent scheme to defraud the City of Fort Lauderdale. Earlier this year, McElligott pled guilty to one count of wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §1343, in connection with the scheme.
According to court documents, McElligott worked as a Fort Lauderdale police officer from 1991, through his resignation late last year. Since 2001, he had been on extended military leave from the U.S. Air Force. Beginning in September 2003, McElligott would present the Fort Lauderdale Police Department and the City of Fort Lauderdale with falsified military leave and earnings statements in order to increase the supplemental pay that the City of Fort Lauderdale gave him pursuant to its supplemental pay policy. McElligott also presented the Police Department and the City with fraudulent military orders, which entitled him to certain rights under federal law to maintain, and return to, his job as a police officer. McElligott sent all of the falsified documents by facsimile or e-mail, or both, to an employee in the payroll department of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department. McElligott’s fraudulent conduct resulted in a loss to the City of Fort Lauderdale of $312,270.65. This included supplemental pay, longevity pay, and benefits. At the sentencing hearing, in addition to imposing imprisonment and supervised release terms, the Judge ordered McElligott to pay restitution to the City in the amount of $197,205.70, which was the balance of the City’s total loss not already repaid by McElligott. This investigation began as a result of information discovered by the Fort Lauderdale Police Department during an internal review. The Fort Lauderdale Police Department immediately contacted the FBI Public Corruption Task Force, and continued to assist in the investigation that resulted in today’s charges. Mr. Ferrer commends the efforts of the FBI’s Public Corruption squad and the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, which is part of the Broward County Public Corruption Task Force. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard P. Murad. >>> A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.
>>> Thank you for using the Broward County Commission Agenda E-mail Notification System. A new Broward County Commission Agenda is available. Point your browser to http://www.broward.org/commission/welcome.htm to view the new agenda.
>>> Three Turtle Farmers Charged and Two Arrested For Illegal Turtle Trafficking
Press release: Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Jason Riley, Deputy Resident Agent in Charge, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), and Major Jeff Hubert, Regional Commander, South A Region, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC), announced the arrest of defendants James Cheung, 57, of Moore Haven, Florida, and Chris Craig, 36, of Okeechobee, Florida, on two criminal complaints charging them with knowingly making illegal sales of freshwater turtles in interstate and foreign commerce, in violation of the Lacey Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 3372(a)(2) and 3373(d)(1). A third arrest warrant was issued for David Feltenberger, 52, of Okeechobee, Florida, for related crimes. If convicted, the defendants face a maximum of five years’ imprisonment. Craig is scheduled to make his initial appearances in federal court on Friday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ann E. Vitunac in Ft. Pierce, Florida. Cheung is scheduled to make an initial appearance on Friday in Ft. Myers, Florida, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas N. Frazier.
Approximately two years ago, FWCC instituted an aquaculture permitting system in response to a declining wild freshwater turtle population in Florida. The purpose of the system was to foster the development of turtle aquaculture facilities, or “turtle farms,” capable of breeding turtle populations for commercial sale as a way to prevent continued overharvesting of the state’s wild turtle populations. The permit system allowed an aquaculture facility owner to harvest a set number of turtles from the wild for the purpose of developing a successful brood stock. In return, the owners of aquaculture facilities were required to follow their permit conditions. One of the required conditions was to maintain any wild-caught turtles on their turtle farms for use as brood stock until the permit’s expiration date. According to the allegations in the complaints, Feltenberger owned a turtle aquaculture facility known as the Big Lake Fish Farm II and possessed an FWCC Turtle Aquaculture Brood Stock Collection Permit. Feltenberger’s permit allowed him to collect over 15,000 turtles of various species from the wild for use as brood stock from May 1, 2011 until April 30, 2012. Craig was an employee on Feltenberger’s turtle farm. In the fall of 2011, Feltenberger purchased wild-caught turtles. Instead of holding them on his aquaculture facility to use as brood stock, he and Craig repeatedly shipped them to China in shipments of live turtles.
Also according to the allegations in the complaints, Cheung owned a turtle aquaculture facility known as I & C Fish Ranch and possessed an FWCC Turtle Aquaculture Brood Stock Collection Permit. Cheung’s permit allowed him to collect over 500 turtles of various species from the wild for use a brood stock from March 21, 2011 until April 30, 2012. Instead of holding them on his aquaculture facility, Cheung repeatedly sold the turtles to buyers in California. Mr. Ferrer commended investigative efforts of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. This case is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jaime Raich. A complaint is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty. >>> A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls.
>>> Press release: Gov. Scott taps Wayne C. Wooten, of Apopka, to the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court.
Wooten, 45, has served as an assistant state attorney for the Ninth Judicial Circuit since 1995. He received bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Florida. “For the past 17years, Wayne has focused on serving the people of the Ninth Circuit with integrity, and I am confident he will continue to do so from the bench,” Governor Scott said. “He has demonstrated a commitment to upholding the law and refraining from allowing his personal beliefs and preferences to influence his legal judgment.” Wooten will fill the seat previously held by Judge N. James Turner.
>>> There he goes again, Gov. Scott suspends Council Member Jones of Town of Malone
There he goes again, Gov. Rick Scott suspends Council Member Fred Lee Jones from the Town of Malone Council. Malone has been charged with two counts of grand theft and two counts of dealing with stolen goods. The charges are a second and third degree felony and after a slight lull in suspensions of elected leaders. Scott is adding another notch to his belt of removing wayward elected officials. His predecessors suspended elected people almost one a month with Gov. Jeb Bush, given his two terms in office getting the top number of suspensions of politicians around the state. Gov. Charlie Crist following Bush also fought this “culture of corruption” or illegal actions but the Sunshine State continues to lead the way to the top, though Chicago and the state’s governors top the chart in removed top state officials.
>>> Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade and Monroe press release: VPK Registration Continues for Summer 2012 and School Year 2012-2013
Summer 2012: Children who have not previously participated in the VPK program and will be entering kindergarten in the upcoming 2012-2013 school year are eligible to participate in the Summer VPK program. Available public school sites include Poinciana School, Key West; Marathon High School; and Key Largo School. This is a full day program running from June 13 – July 25. Parents must provide their own transportation. Parents are encouraged to register early to enable the school district to adequately plan for summer staffing. >>> School Year 2012-2013: Children must be 4 years of age on or before September 1, 2012 to participate in the School Year VPK program. Parents are encouraged to register early to receive the Certificate of Eligibility. Enrollment at a specific public or private school is first come, first-served (as space is available) or by lottery.
Parents may register their children at all Wesley House locations from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Monday – Friday in Key West and Tavernier; Tuesday and Thursday in Marathon). Evening hours are by appointment only. For additional information, please contact Val Taylor at 305-809-5000.
>>> League of Women Voters May 9th Annual Meeting – Florida 2012 Redistricting: Are Voters Back in the Driver’s Seat?
The League of Women Voters of Miami-Dade County will host its annual
meeting and elect a new slate of officers on Wednesday, May 9, 2012
from 6 p.m. to 9p.m. at the Coral Reef Yacht Club located at 2484 South Bayshore Drive, Coconut Grove. Dan Gelber, former Florida State Senator and general counsel to the Fair Districts Coalition, will be the keynote speaker addressing concerns regarding the recent Florida Supreme Court unanimous decision to validate the redrawn 40-member Senate map and reject opponents’
claims that it violated the new constitutional ban on political gerrymandering.
Gelber explained to the Tampa Bay Times that “redistricting was an evolutionary process” and that “these districts are far more compact and more sensible than the ones that were done in previous years.” However, opponents remain disappointed with the court’s decision. >>> To RSVP please contact Terry Coble at firstname.lastname@example.org or 305-751-0504. Admission is $35 and includes complementary food and a cash bar. The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.
>>> www.downtownbayforum.org LEGISLATIVE ROUNDUP PRODUCED BY ROBERT M LEVY & ASSOCIATES: SPEAKERS KAREN ARONOWITZ, PRESIDENT, UNITED TEACHERS OF DADE; DANIELLA LEVINE, PRESIDENT & CEO, CATALYST MIAMI; DIANA RAGBEER, DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC POLICY & COMMUNICATION CHILDRENS TRUST; KATY SORENSON, PRESIDENT & CEO – THE GOOD GOVERNMENT INITIATIVE: MODERATOR ROBERT M LEVY – WOLFSON AUDITORIUM @TEMPLE ISRAEL, 137 NE 19th STREET, MIAMI, FREE SELF PARKING AVAILABLE: Call ANNETTE EISENBERG (305)757-3633 Fax (305)754-2015
>>> Gov. Scott what were you thinking at Freedom Tower bill signing event, then memo suggesting law did not pass constitutional muster, slap in the face of Cuban Exiles
Gov. Rick Scott came to Miami last Tuesday and signed a bill that companies that did business with Cuba and Syria would be banned from state and local governments contracts, but then later in the day sent a memo saying he did not believe the legislation was valid and would not pass federal constitutional muster. Scott a healthcare executive before being elected in 2010 on the mantra of “lets get to work,” stunned local legislators and members of Congress from the Cuban American community that attended the event at the iconic Freedom Tower. While he has since softened his stance, he still faced a firestorm in South Florida and while the flip-flop may have played out well in a Central and North Florida. Here in Miami it looks like blatant pandering. Scott has been trying to find his political feet over the last two years but this bush league demonstration of hypocrisy takes the cake, after his approval rating was ticking up slightly. And when it comes to his reelection in 2014, with one stroke of the pen. He has lost many of the Cuban Exile community’s voters for this cheap ploy and staged election press conference when he signed the bill that included the local Congressional leaders in attendance.
Scott’s election and administration is what one long term prominent Republican called, “The Great Experiment.” Scott has had some success but has made some real bonehead decisions, and this double cross last week is the most jarring, because it was so public and a real slap in the face to the Cuban community as a whole. And I suspect it will be awhile before he shows up at Versailles Restaurant in a photo stop, where he may be booed or at best shunned and the governor has learned a hard political truth. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me, and here in South Florida we do have a decent memory and to say the bloom for Scott is off the tree, is an understatement after this botched affair. >>> Editor’s note: As I have written in the past, I believe this issue is solely under the purview of the federal government without federal legislation allowing the states or local governments to have this restriction.
>>> Feds continue war on Medicare fraud, FBI SAC Gillies calls for stringent requirements for providers, and even a “carpenter” opened a clinic
Wifredo Ferrer, the U.S. Attorney for Southern District of Florida and John Gillies, the Special Agent in Charge for the local FBI Bureau were on www.local10.com show’s This Week In South Florida hosted by Michael Putney, the stations senior political reporter today and the feds have had a gangbuster week when it came to tamping out Medicaid Fraud. In two separate cases, almost $500 million of public dollars were involved and well over 160 people around the nation were busted. Gillies said last year alone as a result of a local federal Healthcare Fraud Task Force created in 2007. The federal government had saved $500 million in reduced billings by this clamp down but the volume of people involved in scams that evolve and mutate over time makes it a Herculean task to shut it down completely.
Ferrer noted in the federal strike force there are a wide array of different people assets including the FBI, IRS, the IG from Medicare and CMS and even nurses to spot these scams, coordinate a law enforcement response and to then prosecute the criminals. Gillies said he has been pushing for two changes in what is currently a “pay and chase,” system where the government has to pay within 15 days of getting the patients bill. The top federal agent thought a better way would be to not use a person’s social security number for Medicare but random numbers like is used with credit cards. He also suggested having Medicare providers under go a more extensive background checks and noted one such person started a Medicare business and scammed the system even though he “was a carpenter.” Fraud in South Florida is off the charts and while some of these efforts are paying off in a big way. It is up to each of us to protect our identity and accounts because law enforcement cannot do it alone and the taxpayers and residents must be forever on alert. For these public tax dollars is all of our money and should be going to where it is needed, not the Cayman Islands or Cuba as has happened in the past.
>>> Check out the past national story in the Tribune papers: Paperwork Tiger
By Maya Bell, Miami Bureau, January 20, 2003 – MIAMI – Sometimes Dan Ricker lives in the dark so others may live in the light. It’s not by choice. Miami’s self-anointed citizen watchdog depends on the people he writes for and about to finance his quixotic quest to attend nearly every government meeting in Miami-Dade County. That’s a lot of mind-numbing meetings — as many as 2,500 a year — but not a lot of income. So Ricker is always teetering on bankruptcy. He dashes to his post-office box daily, hoping subscribers to his weekly Watchdog Report have finally mailed their checks.
>>> Reader on Parks Summitt story: What was this all about? Was Key Biscayne invited?
We’d like to see Miami-Dade County rebuild the Calusa Playhouse (in Calusa Park) It’s owned by the County and designated a ”historic building.” That certainly is a distressed property. And it had three or four shows a year, attracting an audience of 2,000. Then again, as far as Key Biscayne goes, the only thing the County seems to be interested in is sucking up our tax money. Do they ever have an interest in anything else? How about contributing to our beach renourishment that will cost us over $3 million? Maybe we should keep our hotel bed tax money for that? (Like Miami Beach, Surfside, and Bal Harbor.)
Yeah, “greening ” starts at home…
>>> Happy Anniversary and thank you for keeping the public informed. It certainly must take you quite a bit of time to assemble and write about all that you cover.
>>> LIFETIME FOUNDING MEMBERS & INITIAL SPONSORS IN 2000
ANGEL ESPINOSA – (Deceased) owner COCONUT GROVE DRY CLEANER’S
HUGH CULVERHOUSE, Jr.
THE MIAMI HERALD www.miamiherald.com (2000-2008)
WILLIAM HUGGETT, Seamen Attorney (Deceased)
LINDA E. RICKER (Deceased)
JOHN S. and JAMES L. KNIGHT FOUNDATION www.knightfoundation.org
THE HONORABLE STANLEY G. TATE
>>> Watchdog Report supporters – $2,000 a year
BADIA SPICES www.badiaspices.com
FLORIDA POWER & LIGHT www.fpl.com
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY www.miamidade.gov
UNITED WAY OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY www.unitedwaymiamidade.org
>>> Watchdog Report supporters – $1,000 a year
AKERMAN SENTERFITT www.akerman.com
LINDA MURPHY: Gave a new laptop in Oct. 2001 to keep me going.
SHUBIN & BASS www.shubinbass.com
>>> Public, Educational & Social institutions – subscribers at $1,000 or less
CAMILLUS HOUSE, INC. www.camillushouse.org
CITY OF MIAMI www.miamigov.com.
CITY OF CORAL GABLES www.coralgables.com
CITY OF MIAMI BEACH www.miamibeachfl.gov
COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP FOR HOMELESS www.cph.org
THE STATE OF FLORIDA www.myflorida.gov
GREATOR MIAMI CHAMBER OF COMMERCE www.miamichamber.com
GREATER MIAMI CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU www.miamiandbeaches.com
HEALTH FOUNDATION OF SOUTH FLORIDA www.hfsf.org
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY www.miamidade.gov
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY ETHICS & PUBLIC TRUST COMMISSION www.miamidade.gov/ethics
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY INSPECTOR GENERAL www.miamidade.gov/ig
MIAMI-DADE PUBLIC SCHOOLS BOARD www.dadeschools.net
PUBLIC HEALTH TRUST & JACKSON HEALTH SYSTEM www.jhsmiami.org
THE BEACON COUNCIL www.beaconcouncil.com
THE CHILDREN’S TRUST www.thechildrenstrust.org
THE MIAMI-DADE COUNTY LEAGUE OF CITIES www.mdclc.org
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA http://www.firstgov.gov/
UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI www.miami.edu
The Watchdog Report covers a few of the meetings attended weekly. It remains my belief that an informed public will make better decisions. Therefore, I go to meetings, make the presence of an informed citizen known, and bring the information to you. The Watchdog Report is in the fourth year of publication and it has been an honor to be able to send this information to you. It is sent to readers in Miami-Dade, Florida, the U.S. and the world. The Watchdog Report is sent to thousands free and while readers have been prodded to subscribe the results have been mixed. Over 600 reports and Extra’s have been sent since May 5, 2000 and over one million words have been written on our community’s governments and events. The report is an original work based on information gathered at public meetings, interviews and from documents in the public domain.
I welcome letters via e-mail, fax, or snail mail. Letters may be edited for length or clarity and must refer to material published in the Watchdog Report. Please see address and contact information. Please send any additions and corrections by e-mail, fax or snail mail. All corrections will be published in the next Watchdog Report. If you or your organization would like to publish the contents of this newsletter, please contact me. Please send your request to email@example.com
Daniel A. Ricker
Publisher & Editor
Watchdog Report www.watchdogreport.net
Copyright © of original material, 2012, Daniel A. Ricker
>>> The Watchdog Report are now available to television stations web pages, and all the newspapers and other media in South Florida if the publishers have an interest to run part or all of the stories. Further, in 2000, I used to have some paper’s running the report in the Spanish press, that option is available again, and publishers should contact me. The news content will not be free, but you can pick and chose the stories of interest, edit them if necessary but you must still keep the general story intact. If you are a news outlet and would like to learn more about, the Watchdog Report and this offer contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
>>> Here is what past newspapers have written about the Watchdog Report publisher including a survey and regional study done by the U. North Carolina at Chapel Hill on the media in the southeast United States.
>>> The Miami Herald and Orlando Sentinel & Sun-Sentinel articles on the Watchdog Report publisher over the years. >>> Published on September 9, 1999, Page 1EA, Miami Herald, The (FL) CITIZEN ADVOCATE’ KEEPS TABS ON POLITICIANS >>> Published on January 3, 2000, Page 1B, Miami Herald, The (FL) MIAMI-DADE WATCHDOG WILL BE MISSED >>> >>> To read the full section large two page front page story, but without the photos and smart box graphics, go to: `I Go When You Cannot’ – Sun Sentinel 20 Jan 2003 … Sometimes Dan Ricker lives in the dark so others may live in the light. … to his weekly Watchdog Report have finally mailed their checks. … http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2003-01-20/news/0301190341_1_ricker-school-board-president-miami-s-first-cuban-american >>>Watchdog Report publisher named ‘Best Citizen’ 2003 by the Miami New Times –The publisher would like to thank the weekly alternative paper Miami New Times for bestowing their 2003 Best of Miami, ‘Best Citizen’ award to me and I am honored. Thank you. To read the full story go to http://www.miaminewtimes.com/issues/2003-05-15/citylife2.html/1/index.html
From the spring of 2003: U. North Carolina, Chapel Hill: Southeast U.S. Media Report lists Watchdog Report publisher as leading Florida commentator >>> Selected excerpts from the report on Florida’s media sources
Those who do read the newspaper in Florida have a bevy of options for state government and political coverage. The dominant newspapers in the state are Knight-Ridder’s The Miami Herald (Acquired by The McClatchy Company in 2006) and the Poynter Institute’s St. Petersburg Times. Both papers endorsed Gore in 2000 but split on the 2002 gubernatorial race, with the Herald endorsing Republican incumbent Jeb Bush and the Times backing Democratic challenger Bill McBride. Daniel Ricker of The Miami Herald also writes an influential column as well as an email newsletter called the Watchdog Report that goes out to more than 100,000 subscribers. FEBRUARY 2004 – Florida: Columnists in Abundance –ERIC GAUTSCHI, graduate student, School of Journalism & Mass Communication, UNC-Chapel Hill – D) LEADING COMMENTATORS – Resource Commentator Organization Type Web site –Steve Bousquet St. Petersburg Times Column www.sptimes.com/columns/bousquet.shtml -“First Friday” WPBT TV (Miami) TV Show www.channel2.org/firstfriday/issues.html –Lucy Morgan St. Petersburg Times Column www.sptimes.com/columns/morgan.shtml –Daniel Ricker Miami Herald/Watchdog Report Newsletter >>> Readers who would like to read the complete University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Southeast United States Media Report go to view the complete report or download all the data used in this study. >>> Watchdog Report Editor’s note to the NCU/CH study: The subscriber number referenced is incorrect and applies to readership.
Fax 305-668-4784 -To contact the Publisher please e-mail email@example.com